MACEDONIA: Mayor Don Kuchta is telling nonresidents to avoid the city during peak travel times.
A portion of Ledge Road was closed Tuesday after a large piece of sandstone fell from the train bridge that passes over it near Interstate 271.
Kuchta said he will not reopen the road until the 108-year-old bridge, owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad, is repaired.
However, by closing Ledge, the 10-square-mile city of more than 11,000 residents has been reduced to one east-west thoroughfare.
Another east-west corridor — Highland Road — has been closed for construction and will not reopen until late July at the earliest.
That means all traffic from Highland and now Ledge is being directed onto Aurora Road (state Route 82.) The road not only carries Macedonia residents, but is a key conduit for people exiting state Route 8 and I-271 to get to the even larger city of Twinsburg, which is east of the city.
“Don’t come here at rush hour,” Kuchta warned travelers.
The city took a look at the bridge after a driver reported that a boulder smashed into her car Tuesday afternoon.
“We went down and looked at the bridge and said ‘Holy crap. This bridge is terrible,’?” Kuchta said. “It has hunks of rock missing everywhere.”
Kuchta said he brought in the engineering firm of GPD Group to take a look, and it rated the bridge a 3 out of a possible 5 and agreed it should remain closed until repairs are made to the sandstone abutments.
The railroad sent an engineer from Michigan to look at the bridge Thursday, and Kuchta said the engineer “disagreed” with the mayor’s assessment that the bridge posed a potential for derailments as well as for motorists.
Norfolk Southern spokesman Dave Pidgeon said the railroad’s engineer inspected the bridge for an hour and concluded there was no risk to the trains.
Some 140 trains use the bridge every day, Pidgeon said. It’s part of the busiest line in the railroad’s 26-state system, he said.
“From his perspective, the bridge is deemed safe for train travel,” Pidgeon said.
The engineer also concluded that there was no immediate danger to the public from more falling sandstone, but that the railroad would send a crew next week to “make some upgrades” in areas that could cause a problem in the future, Pidgeon said.
“We certainly recognize the concerns of the mayor and other public officials, especially in the wake of that sandstone coming down,” he said. “As far as traffic is concerned, it’s up to local officials whether they want to open the road or not.”
But Kuchta said he’s certain that sandstone is continuing to fall.
While the railroad representative was visiting the site, Kuchta said he picked up a stone from the road.
“It was about an inch and a half in diameter,” the mayor said. “I said, ‘This wasn’t here yesterday. It’s not a boulder, but would you want that to fall on your windshield?’
“As far as I’m concerned,” Kuchta said, “I will not open that road until it is fixed.”
Closing the road will cause other inconveniences, especially if it is still closed when school resumes in the fall.
Ledge Road is home to Lee Eaton Elementary School. Kuchta guesses that most of the Macedonia students who attend that school live on the east side — the wrong side of the bridge.
Also, police and emergency crews will not be able to use the road, possibly increasing response times to the west side of the city.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.